Men's Basketball

Williamson Injury Once Again Shakes Up Lineup

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixLoyola sophomore guard Lucas Williamson watches on as the Ramblers take on Southern Illinois Jan. 27.

The Loyola men’s basketball team is 7-4 when Lucas Williamson is available to play, but the Ramblers could be forced to play without the sophomore guard for the rest of the season, according to head coach Porter Moser. That means Moser will have to change his rotation once again.

Williamson suffered a broken hand during Loyola’s loss to University of Nevada Nov. 27, which sidelined him for the next eight games. In his fourth game back, Williamson re-injured his hand against Indiana State University Jan. 19, and Moser said he’s out for the foreseeable future.

“He’s going to be out for a while, if not the [rest of the] season,” Moser said. “I think surgery is imminent, and it’s unfortunate for him. But there is a chance he can get back.”

Williamson is second on the team in rebounds per game, averaging 6.5 boards per game, and his 37.2 percent clip from three-point territory ranks third for the Ramblers. Moser has also praised Williamson as his best defender at multiple points throughout the season

In the Ramblers’ first game since Williamson re-injured his hand, Moser chose first-year guard Cooper Kaifes as the replacement in the starting lineup against Missouri State. Junior guard Bruno Skokna only played 11 minutes in the game, and first-year guard Isaiah Bujdoso got 22 minutes off the bench.

“Bruno’s done it before. He’s played minutes in a key time. This is his third year in the program, and we wanted a jump-start. Cooper came off the bench and gave us a spark when Lucas was starting, and he did it again tonight.”

Porter Moser

After the Ramblers suffered a 35-point defeat against Missouri State University, Moser made drastic changes to his rotation in the victory over Southern Illinois University. Skokna was inserted into the starting lineup and played a season-high 31 minutes. This led to Kaifes coming off the bench, where he put up seven points in 29 minutes, while Bujdoso only played five minutes.

Moser said Bujdoso’s lack of playing time was due to the “flow of the game.” Yet, this was the third time Bujdoso had played less than seven minutes during the conference season despite averaging 16.5 minutes on the season as a whole. As for the starting lineup change, Moser said he went with Skokna due to his experience and history with the team.

“Bruno’s done it before,” Moser said. “He’s played minutes in a key time. This is his third year in the program, and we wanted a jump-start. Cooper came off the bench and gave us a spark when Lucas was starting, and he did it again tonight.”

Another surprising adjustment Moser made in the Southern Illinois game was playing sophomore forward Christian Negron. In his previous five games, Negron had been scoreless while averaging only 3.8 minutes per game. Against the Salukis, Negron put up a career-high nine points while tying his career-high with five rebounds in 11 minutes.

“Christian played great,” Moser said. “It was just one of those things where I rode the [hot hand]. It’s a great lesson for people, Christian stayed ready mentally. Christian didn’t get the first call, but then he got the second one and made some really nice plays when he got in the game.”

Assistant coach Bryan Mullins is involved in the rotational decisions — even making the decision to start then-senior forward Aundre Jackson in the second half of Loyola’s 69-68 victory over Nevada in last year’s Sweet Sixteen. While Moser makes all of the final decisions in regards to playing time, Mullins still has input in the process. He said he believes the starting lineup is still very much up in the air from game to game.

“I think we’re still working through it,” Mullins said in a teleconference Jan. 21. “Every week, guys earn their minutes and earn their playing time, so I don’t think that’s going to change for the rest of the season.”

Riding the hot hand, going with the flow of the game and players earning their minutes in practice seem to be consistent messages Moser and his coaching staff have talked about all season. It could help explain the somewhat inconsistent minutes many of the bench players have received so far this season. 

The Ramblers are scheduled to host University of Northern Iowa as part of the Jesuit Jam Jan. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Chicago.

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